Tourism is a growing industry in the United States. According to the US Travel Industry, domestic tourism (traveling by air and hotel stays) has increased at a solid pace in May of 2017, the 13th month of consecutive growth. A large number of smaller cities have been working hard to tap into this trend, from the upscale breweries of Ashville, North Carolina, to the music scene of Austin, Texas, to the skiing of Park City, Utah. A generation of millennials interested in exploring regional, authentic experiences, and better awareness of the delights these cities have to offer, has spread domestic tourism out from just traditional locations like New York City or Las Vegas.
Of course, all these new tourists require parking. Even if they are flying in instead of driving, many are renting cars to get around. A lot of smaller cities weren’t built with mass transit in mind, so tourist destinations are spread out and difficult to walk to. Another factor is that many of these events are seasonal. Whether it is summer music festivals, fall Oktoberfest events and tastings for beer, or winter sports after the snow has fallen, smaller cities can see their population double or triple between the height of tourist season and the off-season.
You know what isn’t seasonal? Parking Spaces. Cities have to manage their long-term parking inventory with drastically different levels of demand. A classic solution to this issue in parking is demand-based pricing, where metered spaces on different streets charge different prices, with the goal of encouraging parking to be diffused across a large area of the city with managed demand. With seasonal-demand based pricing, prices are raised and lowered depending on how many visitors are in town, so that a few parking spaces are available for those in need of them even at the height of tourist season, without bankrupting the locals in the off-season.
How can smart cities dealing with high seasonality predict these population changes, which can vary dramatically depending on how many festivals are held on what weekend and even the weather patterns? A rough way to estimate demand is to track the hotel prices, taking advantage of the sophisticated software hotels use to raise rates when their own available rooms are limited. Cities can track hotel rates against a baseline and raise parking when hotel rates are up, and lower parking when hotel rates are down.
However, the smarter solution is to have a low-infrastructure tool like Streetline’s Hybrid Deployment, which gives cities high-accuracy data and analytics on how to set demand-based pricing with a low infrastructure deployment. As always, good parking needs good policy, and good policy needs good data!